Friday, August 19, 2011

a woman's work is never done

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that I love the quilts of Gee's Bend. I was fortunate enough to see one of the exhibitions of the quilts when it traveled to Cleveland in 2004. Jeff had seen it earlier at the Whitney and he knew that I would love the show, so we made the four hour drive from Cincinnati to the Cleveland Museum of Art. At the show, I bought the catalog from the exhibition and it is one of my favorite quilting books, but in all honesty, I have never read any of the essays in it before. I've looked at the gorgeous photographs many, many times, but that was it.

We had to drive to Tennessee for the funeral of Jeff's grandmother who passed away this week, so I brought my Gee's Bend catalog with me for the trip. And I finally started to read some of the essays.

And I'm glad I did. As a crafter/designer/quilter/small business owner/blogger/aspiring pattern writer/etc who is also a wife and mother of two young children, I often feel like a chicken without its head, running around from one task to the other, and still trying to find the time to express my creativity. And then I read this passage:

Their aesthetic is purposeful, composed with the speed and authority and a quiet hum, an occasional prick if the finger, the spreading out of the cloth, smoothing it to see that the pattern is emerging as desired, the interaction with others, the folding up of the quilt and putting it away. Unlike a painting or drawing that can be put up on an easel, contemplated or admired, a quilt in progress must be set aside, stored in a safe place until the next available free block of time. The quilt will be beautiful when it is done, but while it is being done--and because a woman's work is never done--it might just look like some "needlework." Never mind that the artist is walking around, walking briskly of course with that pattern in her head while taking care of her seven or more "head of children" and tending to whomever else is in need around her--up the road, across the road, around the bend, in the next town--trying to get all of the crops in, picking cotton, braiding hair, soothing the furrowed brow of an overworked husband who had a run-in with the white man in Rehoboth or Montgomery or somewhere out in the country; learning that she is pregnant again, still walking around with those multicolored patterns in her head, those patterns that will not let her go, will not release her, will gently tug at her until she has manipulated them, until she has conquered them, until she has brought them under her spell. (from the introduction, written by Alvia Wardlaw, pg. 18)

While my life is certainly quite different than those of the women of Gee's Bend, I can relate to the feeling of having so much to do in such a limited amount of time. But if they can do it, and do it as brilliantly as they did, I have nothing to complain about. I have lots to do, and it is true that my work is never done. But I'll get to it all, eventually. It just might take a while.
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